Saturday, February 6, 2021

Dispatches from the Border, February 2021

Events and News From Borderlands Books


* We're very sorry to report that author and editor Storm Constantine has died at age 64:

* Someone created a computer graphic of what a Culture ship, from Iain Banks' novels, might look like:

* I completely lost myself in this totally fascinating (Very geeky! Very academic!) blog series by historian Bret Devereaux, excoriating George R. R. Martin for his portrayal of the Dothraki.  (Thanks to Fazal for letting us know about this one!):  

* Thanks to Jordan for letting us know about this extensive (and in-progress) Historical Science Fiction Dictionary: (From

* Legend Ursula K. Le Guin gets a postage stamp!

* A really interesting article on the 1960's concerns about "alien microbes" and the extreme (and massively flawed) steps NASA took to avoid a possible "lunar pandemic":

* Netflix's "Sandman" series has its main cast (ohmigosh, Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer! But where/who is Death?!):

* LeVar Burton (<3!) has been named the inaugural PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion:

* Yes, the title of this article from the Guardian UK is, in fact, "Texas Sorry After Mistakenly Sending Emergency Alert for Cursed Chucky Doll":

* Serious issues with AI and the "new" phrenology:

* The first successful face and double hand transplant has been completed:

* Nice article about how the "The Expanse" shows (mostly) accurate science:

* Somewhat unsurprisingly, the galaxy is larger than we thought.  Check out this article just for the phrase "galactic cannibalism"!:

* Locus Magazine has published their "Recommended Reading" List for 2020 - lots of fabulous stuff to check out:

Haight St. Update

January is not a quiet month for small businesses.  There's all the catch-up to do after the holidays on top of all the work to close out the books for the past year, along with getting tax information prepared (since Borderlands is a corporation, our tax deadline is a month early, on March 15th).  On top of that, mid-month I took a run up to Seattle to buy a book collection (more about that in my Office Piece a bit further down in this newsletter).  Long and short of it was that it was not a productive month at the new building.  

We did make some solid inroads on finishing up the last bits of sheetrock for the bathroom but, beyond that, all that I managed to get done was hang the bathroom door. That was a job that should have taken an hour or two, tops, but instead took closer to a day and a half.  The door that I was putting in is essentially temporary.  It's enough to pass inspection and work perfectly well but . . . it's a cheap hollow-core door.  Due to the thickness of the bathroom walls, I had to special order it but I wasn't really expecting any surprises.  But, that door was _made_ of surprises.

The first thing was that there was a gap at the top of the frame.  One of the nails had split the wood and so the joint wasn't tight.  Before hanging the door, I pulled the offending nail and closed up the gap.  I figured that would be it.  Once I got the door up, however, I discovered that the door had been fitted correctly _with_ the gap so now it was too tight and was sticking at the top.  Next step was to plane the side of the door to make it narrower and fit properly.  That job done, the door closed but was a little wobbly.  I checked the hinges.

Four of the eight screws in the top hinge were loose.  I tightened them and now, guess what, there was a gap at the top of the door where I had planed it.  Oh well, not a big thing (or a big gap - the door would have needed to be planed anyway just . . . not quite so much).  Onward!

Next I installed the latch and door knob.  It was a little irritating because the mortise (i.e. the recessed area that the strike plate fits into) had been miss-cut but I was able to sort that out with some quick chisel work.  That was made more complicated because, at some point, an unknown someone had hit a nail or screw with my narrow chisel, cracking off the corner of the edge.  A hassle but I just flipped the chisel over (it was a thankfully shallow cut) and finished up.  Installed the door knob and . . . the door won't latch shut.

Subsequent investigation determined that the location of the strike (the thing in the doorframe that the latch goes into) and the location of the lock-set (the holes in the door that the door knob and latch fit into) didn't match up.  They weren't off by a whole lot but it was enough to stop the door from latching.  The fix was to make the hole in the strike plate bigger.  Rather than do that by hand with a file, I decided to take the strike back to the bookstore, where I had the tools to reshape it easily.

Back at the bookstore, I turned on my trusty compressor and grabbed a die grinder.  I figure that would make quick work of the job.  Then the compressor turned off. Check compressor, it's fine.  Check cord, it's fine.  Check circuit breaker . . . tripped.  Hummmm.  Reset breaker.  Compressor starts back up.  Runs for a minute or so. Circuit breaker trips.  Double hummmmm.  Reset breaker.  Compressor runs.  Breaker trips.

Check cord on compressor.  No problems, no wear, no short-circuit.  Take off a couple of cover plates to check wiring to compressor.  All fine. Ummmmmm.  Plug table saw into compressor circuit, reset breaker, turn on saw.  Saw runs then; breaker trips.  Right, bad breaker (they're all quite old because . . . landlord).

Look for extension cord for compressor.  All the heavy-duty cords are at Haight St.  Unplug compressor from air-lines, move compressor to different outlet.  Hook up temporary air line.

I'm not going to bore you with all the rest of the details.  Suffice it to say that, at pretty much every step, hanging that door was a problem.  I dunno, maybe the tree was cursed or something.  But, by the end of the second day (!) that I was working on it, the door functioned properly.  

That was last week.  I have high hopes that this week will be better.  I suppose it could be worse but I'm not sure I can imagine how.  Barring some unforeseen problems though, this month and next month are going to be very heavy days at the new building.  I've got all the catch-up done, the taxes are about ready to go to the accountant, and things at the shop are running smoothly.  The permit for the new front windows will expire in April and the permit for the bathroom expires in June.  It would be a very, very good thing to get both of those jobs closed out before the permits expire.  With a bit of luck and plenty of concentration, I'm pretty sure that I can get them finished.  Certainly, you will either be hearing about a bunch of accomplishments next month or . . . I'll be getting extensions for the permits sorted out.  Let's hope for the former.

-Alan Beatts

From The Office

My, it's much easier to focus on writing (or anything else) this month compared to early January.  That was one very weird time in the US.  Things are still pretty weird, I grant you, but the improvement is notable.  I hope that you are all doing well and staying safe.

We're one month into the year and our annual sponsorship renewal process.  As I mentioned last month, we have been dependent on our sponsorship program to offset higher payroll costs since 2015.  Each year 300 or more people sponsor us with a $100 contribution.  That process has not only allowed Borderlands to remain in operation but was the basis for the direct borrowing that allowed us to buy the building that will be our future home on Haight St.  Due to the economic effects of last year, moreso than ever before, sponsorships are critical for our continued operation.  If you've never been a sponsor before, now would be a great time to start.  You can sign up on-line here -, come in person, or call us to sign-up via credit card.  We're even happy to take checks via mail (if you're going to go the mail route, please include your full name, phone number, email address and mailing address).

If you'd like to know more about the history of sponsorship and the benefits associated with it, take a look here -

One of the benefits that doesn't appear on that list is access to preview sales when we buy large, interesting book collections.  Last month I took a trip to Seattle and purchased an extensive library (over two and a half _tons_ of books).  It's a really neat collection and very wide-ranging.  I haven't unpacked all the boxes yet but so far there have been things ranging from good paperback reading copies (right now we have more Philip K. Dick paperbacks than anytime in the past decade) all the way to mid-20th century classics (for example, the nicest first edition of Who Goes There by John W. Campbell that I have _ever_ seen).  It's a good collection and there are a huge number of books (by my estimate it's around 4000 individual books).

There's another element to this sale as well; since we're going to need to make room for all those books when we get them inventoried, this sale will also include a 25% discount on all our used books (including the rare books behind the counter).

I mention all this to you for two reasons.

First, the preview sale for our sponsors will be on Thursday, February 11th.  The shop will be closed to the public that day, which is one thing you should know, but, more importantly, it's not too late to get a sponsorship and come to the sale.

Second, right now our used paperback sections are filled with really great stuff because we entered those books from the boxes we've sorted first.  It's not going to last though so, if you're in the market for some paperbacks that you don't see used often, come on by.  Also, over the next few months as we inventory all those books, you can expect that there will be a lot of neat books, mostly hardcover, showing up in the shop.  So, as they say, shop early and often.

All Best,

Best Sellers

Borderlands Best-Selling Titles for January, 2021

1. The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
2. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
3. Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire
4. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
5. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
6. Ring Shout by P. Dejeli Clark
7. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
8. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
9. Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
10. Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor

Trade Paperbacks
1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
2. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
3. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
4. The Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
5. Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
6. The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu
7. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow
8. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
9. Exhalation by Ted Chiang
10. The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. Dune by Frank Herbert
2. Neuromancer by William Gibson
3. Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
4. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
5. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
6. The Thousand Names by Django Wexler
7. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
8. Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
9. Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
10. Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Book Club Information

The QSF&F Book Club will meet virtually on Sunday, February 14th, at 5 pm to discuss THE FOLD by Peter Clines.  Please contact the group leader, Christopher Rodriguez, at, for more information.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club will meet virtually on Sunday, January 21st, at 6 pm to discuss FINNA by Nino Capri.  The book for March 21st is THE MEMORY POLICE by Yoko Ogawa.  Please contact for more information.

This newsletter is distributed monthly free of charge and may be distributed without charge so long all the following information is included.

Dispatches from the Border
Editor - Jude Feldman
Assistant Editor - Alan Beatts

All contents unless otherwise noted are the property of Borderlands Books, 866 Valencia St.
San Francisco CA 94110
415 824-8203
Comments and suggestions should be directed to